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You know how I’m this stupid perfectionist and I feel like I never do enough/get enough done/accomplish enough? And how it’s ludicrous?

So sometimes when David gets home from work and I’m all like “Aaaaaah, I’m exhausted TAKE THE BABY!” and I then survey my messy house, unfolded laundry, dog-fur laden floors, and half-finished dinner I think I really just kind of suck at this homemaker thing.

So today I decided to count the number of things I was doing during a 10 minute interval:

  1. Wear the baby (because our house is not completely babyproofed and she doesn’t want to be put down right  for whatever reason).
  2. Cool the baked squash (for baby food).
  3. Bake sweet potatoes (for baby food).
  4. Vacuum the living room.
  5. Dry laundry.
  6. Fry bacon (for part of dinner).
  7. Prep acorn squash (for dinner).
  8. Write blog.

Dude. That’s a lot of stuff. How many tiny but not insignificant tasks do I do every day? Somehow the baby has clean clothes, and David and I usually do. She eats home made food. We eat home made food with almost no convenience food because of the whole soy/dairy free thing. I take walks. I go to yoga. I occasionally shower. I breast feed. I participate in at least 2 activities with my mamas’ group per week. I pay bills. I do all the grocery shopping and cooking (though David does some grilling). I take care of the baby full time. I take a million pictures, edit them and upload them. I go to therapy. I even sleep sometimes. And all the other crap that has to get done that you then forget about as soon as you’ve done it.

No, I haven’t written the Great American Novel yet. Nor have I run a 5k. Or met many other lofty ad not so lofty goals. But I’m getting by, I have a beautiful family, I’m happy a good portion of the time and not crazy most of it. My kid is happy and wonderful. I think I need to just chill the hell out, no?

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I’ve realized lately that when it comes to babies and kids there is a theory – endorsed or espoused by an expert with many letters after his/her name – for EVERYTHING. Remember how I bragged on Lillian’s excellent sleep? Well that lasted until just after she turned five months old and then fell apart. This was not unexpected, it often happens around then, but we certainly hoped we had dodged that bullet. Not so much.

So now her sleep is totally erratic. Some nights we get the old school 7-9 hours straight. Some nights there’s one extra wake up for nursing. Some nights she goes down fairly easily and some she wakes up every 20 minutes until midnight. Some nights she wants to nurse every hour or two. Did I mention I hate unpredictability? It makes me crazy. But here we are, trying to adapt .

Some of my mama friends have had to contend with this all along, for others it’s more recent. But most of us are now having to take another look at the dreaded “sleep training” and making decisions about how to help our kids sleep. Some experts say that the only way to make sure your kid will have good sleep for the rest of his life (and do well in school, make money, and marry doctor) is if you let them cry it out. There’s a bunch of different names for this but they all amount to letting you kid scream alone in their room until they eventually put themselves to sleep. There are gentler and not so gentle versions of this.  The first book David and I read on sleep espoused a not so gentle version, and claimed the payoff would be a gloriously easy to sleep and nap child. David pretty much bought into it, I was on the fence. I spend a lot of time on the fence these days. I should check for splinters.

Anyway, there are also books out there that claim that letting your kid scream her head off in a dark room with no idea if you will ever show up might be a wee bit damaging psychologically, and some studies have shown it dumps a lot of chemicals into their bodies that can have bad effects on their emotional development. So basically you’re damned if you do, damned if you don’t.

That pretty much sums up the parenting experience. There are so many experts out there who tell us what we should or shouldn’t do, and mostly contradict each other and expect us to ignore our own intuitions and judgment. It’s maddening. It makes me mad. It reminds me a lot of when I was an opera singer. My teacher would say one thing, my coach another, and if I pointed out that it was contradictory they would claim it wasn’t and try to blame me for not understanding. There’s a reason I’m not an opera singer any more…

Recently I’ve come to realize that we all cherry pick the research/experts that resonate with our own beliefs and values the most. At least I know I’m doing it. What I wish is that I wasn’t so insecure about my parenting abilities that I need an endorsement to take care of my kid the way I think is best.

David and I tried a bit of crying it out and concluded it was not what we wanted for Lillian. The “you’re ruining your child’s life” arguments on both sides are less concerning to us than what are we doing to her now? Is there a compelling reason to put her through that kind of emotional pain, other than it speeding up the amount of time it will take for her to learn to put herself to sleep? Not that we could find. She’s a happy kid and we don’t really want to fuck with that.  Now talk to us in a month and if she’s still waking up at all hours we may change our tune entirely. But seriously, why do I need an endorsement to figure out what is best for my kid? I know her better than anyone else in the world. I’m the goddamned expert.

And on to round 2 of poo. We took Lillian to see an expert on gastric issues. We think. This guy has a waiting list a mile long and works a lot with kids with food intolerance issues. But I didn’t do a lot of advanced research on him because I was going on a friend’s recommendation. Whoops.

He talked a lot of smack about “our society” and “basic science” to justify the test he’s having us do to find what Lillian is sensitive to. He gives this blood test called an IGGe4 thingy to David, because supposedly his food sensitivities dictate Lillian’s for the first part of her life. But then I did some research on this test, and it turns out that while one study showed some improvement for IBS patients who cut foods out according to the results, a more in-depth study showed no correlation between the test results and real food sensitivity. The doctor also used some phraseology I tend to get a little suspicious of, claiming that food sensitivity can cause brain fog and inflammation. Er, what? Very not sold. Possibly not even on the fence.

I made this appointment for Lillian after she had a week-long reaction to what I thought was one dose of dairy, but turned out to be a week  of exposure to soy. We know for damn sure that she has a problem with soy. Which is what we had trouble convincing our original pediatrician of in the beginning.

Anyway, we’ve decided that if the test results come back and are intuitive – if they at least confirm some of what we already know – then we’ll take them into consideration. But if they’re all over the map and the doc is really dogmatic about his interpretation I think we’re going to move the hell on. We have an appointment with Lillian’s new pediatrician next week, so I’ll be curious what she has to say.

I guess the point of all this is that as an insecure and at least mildly terrified new parent, you have to sort through all this fucking information when it really makes the most sense to get to know and trust your intuition. I have far more information on my child than anyone else possibly could. Sorting through that information and looking for patterns and correlations is my job. Unless something an expert is espousing really jives with what I already know, it’s probably bunk, or at least inapplicable.

It’s been really hard to get to the point where I can see myself as the expert instead of anyone and everyone else, but I think it’s the only way I can take the best care of Lillian. I have a big brain, a lot of strong instincts, and I love my child profoundly. Pair that with David’s intelligence, love, and protectiveness of  Lillian and we make a pretty good team. I wish I trusted that more and wasted a lot less time on feeling insecure and fearful.

16 Weeks

A whole entry about my poop? Seriously?

Here, as promised, is an entire entry dedicated to poop. There will be no pictures of poop, however, just graphic descriptions.

When Lillian was around seven weeks I noticed some little specs of blood in her diaper. Of course, I freaked out and called the pediatrician who said it could be a reaction to cow’s milk and to maybe scale back on it a bit. Being the freakazoid I am, I decided to cut dairy out completely and I got every soy product I could get my hands on and ate them all weekend. Then it got really weird and icky. Mucusy, sort of seaweedy dark brown and stinky as hell. There were also occasional specs of blood, and other poop was really green. I called the pediatrician and asked what I should do. I mentioned that the week before I cut out dairy I had actually started subbing in soy milk for my cereal because I was worried I’d been overdoing it. So follow along  – I actually upped my soy intake right before this whole mess started. Then I upped it a lot more, and the poop got way worse. I asked the pediatrician if she thought it was possible that Lillian had issues with soy, but not dairy. She said it was possible, but told me to keep drinking soy milk and cut out all dairy.

Lillian was really fussy during this time so I decided that was crap advice and I was going to cut out both diary and soy – Lillian started feeling better pretty quickly. When we saw the pediatrician about a week later for her two month appointment, she recommended I take a probiotic called Florastor that was safe for people who were dairy intolerant, and she gave us 5 vials for collecting poop to have it tested. She claimed that mucusy, green poop was actually a sign of intestinal bleeding (rilly?) and I shouldn’t try to reintroduce dairy or soy until she had yellow poop again.

I’m generally not squeamish about changing the poopy diaper, but collecting it was no fun at all. The vials had liquid in them and the tops had these tiny spoons attached that you were supposed to use to scoop the poop. The vast amounts I had to get into each vial was totally incompatible with these teeny tiny spoons, so I just ended up trying to scrape it into the vial from the diaper. Much ickiness ensued. Bleah.

The tests came back negative, and the doctor told me to stay off everything with any soy or dairy additives and take the Florastor until things were normal again. I became a poopologist. I looked at every diaper, scanning it for blood, consistency, color, and smell. The state of Lillian’s poop became the barometer for my state of mind. Good poop – good day. Bad poop – bad, bad day. Depression. Anxiety. Fear.

The poop stayed green but stopped showing any blood (and mind you, the blood was always in such small amounts that David couldn’t even see it) until Mother’s Day when we went out for dinner. The pediatrician had said goat and sheep cheese should be safe, so I had me a goat’s cheese fest and a great dinner. 36 hours later Lillian’s poop got nasty again. I felt like a horrible mother. It took about 5 days to cycle back, and in the meantime I’d run out of Florastor so I was off it for a few days. Magically, we had yellow poop again for the first time in about six weeks! Hallelujah!

Then I went back on Florastor and it got weird again. So I went off. Florastor, it turns out, has lactose in it. The theory was that Lillian has an intolerance to either soy protein, dairy protein, or both. So lactose from cows shouldn’t have an effect. But then again, the doctor told me to avoid all dairy and soy additives, many of which don’t contain protein. Huh?

I called our local blended holistic-conventional pharmacy and asked a pharmacist about Florastor. She said as a probiotic it’s virtually useless because it only contains one bug. She suggested a broad spectrum, dairy and soy free probiotic and an enzyme to help with digestion.

Several things have happened since then. Lillian’s poop is much better overall. When something seems to disturb her digestion, she bounces back quickly. I think the supplements help, and I also think her system is getting better at processing stuff.

I’ve talked to other mothers about the situation, and come to the conclusion that we blew the whole thing way out of proportion, partly thanks to our pediatrician. She even had me worrying every time I could hear Lillian’s stomach grumbling. Yes, blood in the poop means something is bugging her intestines, but monitoring every single quality of her poop is crazy and crazy-making. It turns out lots of my friends have babies with green, mucusy, dark, light, yellow, brown, whatever poop. They’re all fine. Baby poop is not standard, and it’s no big deal when it changes. Even blood is not a big deal if you can isolate the cause and cut it out until they outgrow the intolerance.

It should be mentioned that Lillian has never seemed to have any discomfort since that first week. She’s perfectly happy, active, healthy, and has a good appetite. We rarely notice any discomfort that could be attributed to her digestion.

So after making myself nuts for two months, I decided that was enough. No more obsessing about every change in Lillian’s poop. We would start reintroducing soy and dairy separately and determine if either or both was the culprit, and any poop that didn’t have significant blood was good poop as far as we were concerned.

The pediatrician quizzed us about it at Lillian’s four-month appointment last week and we gave her the basic story. I asked her about the Florastor and she claimed it was perfectly safe. Again, her party line without any real consideration for my observations, or my individual kid. So. Fired.

It’s way more fun to not be obsessive. And now we know she is actually quite sensitive to soy. I tried some stuff that had soy additives and lo and behold, she had a clear, but short-lived reaction. Hopefully she’ll outgrow it, but I’m not going to try again until she’s six months old. I’ll try a small amount of dairy in a week or so and see what happens. I suspect with dairy it may be a threshold thing and if I enjoy it in moderation she’ll be just fine. Either way we’ll know before we start solids, so we’ll know what to avoid. In the meantime, I’m turning in my poopologist badge and just going back to being Mama.

And that’s the poopstory. I’m going to get in so much trouble for this when she’s a teenager.

Four months!

Four months old!

I am actually feeling a lot better these days. I know the hormones are starting to subside because I don’t break into a sweat every time I get stressed out. I still get kind of hot at night, but nothing like it was. And oh yeah, I don’t have a mental breakdown every day or so. That part is key. I still get grouchy, and defensive, and worried, and exhausted, (just ask David!) but I don’t hit the red zone nearly as easily.

So now I can reflect on some of the madness that has been the last 4 months and think about writing more about it. Here’s a tale of self-inflicted crazy from the crazy archives.

When Lillian was about 4 weeks old, I had the really bad idea to weigh her on the bathroom scale. And the scale said she was only 7 lbs, way too low for where she should be. To rewind – she had come in at the 10th percentile for weight and her doctor had warned us it couldn’t go below that, so I was paranoid. She had also lost too much weight when she came home from the hospital, and that was really scary. Also, breast feeding is hard in that respect because you really have no idea how much food your kid is getting. And a friend of mine had had supply problems and her baby was having a hard time gaining weight. Another friend’s newborn had ended up in NICU because she had issues relating to low birth weight. How does all this apply to this situation? Er, it doesn’t really, I was just paranoid.

Anyhoo, I freaked the hell out. Freaked. Out. I was convinced that Lillian was dangerously underweight, dehydrated, sickly, and on the brink of being taken from me and stuck in NICU. (At this point I was seriously sleep-deprived as well.) David didn’t want me taking her to the doctor or calling the lactation consultant and further indulging my panic – he was sure she was just fine. But I got so wigged I did end up calling the lactation consultant. She came later in the week, weighed Lillian, and determined that she was in fact 7lbs 12oz, a very respectable weight gain since her previous appointment. Doh.

The freaky thing was I managed to convince myself so completely that something was seriously wrong when it wasn’t. A freakier thing was how my fear of Lillian not gaining weight and somehow getting “in trouble” for it was really an inversion of my own feelings about my body. I’ve always hated the scale, and while my self-esteem is usually pretty good these days, as is my fitness, I’ve still avoided the doctor because I don’t want a supposed authority figure to tell me I’m wrong or defective in some way. But since I had the baby I haven’t really given a crap about that so much. So here we have a perfect example of how my own issues can be passed on to my kid unconsciously if I’m not careful. Do I want Lillian to worry about weighing too much or too little as she gets older? Nooooooo. I just want her to feel as comfortable and happy in her body as possible. Is it her job to take on my feelings about my body? Oh Jesus no.

Sometimes I still worry. Lillian is smaller than most of the babies in our play group and I have a tendency to compare a bit too much. But I just look at my anxiety and say, “Well, that’s just my old friend Anxiety in another costume, and it doesn’t have any more to do with reality (or with Lillian) than last time when I was fixated on something else.”  It eventually works when paired with some fresh air, or meditation, or a good nights’ sleep. And Lillian is awesome; she’s active and happy and I love her chubby thighs and cheeks. I may be a worrier, but I make good, well-thought out decisions for myself and her.  I have no intention of letting my own crap influence those decisions or how Lillian perceives herself as she becomes more self-aware.

I’ve also talked to a lot more parents since the early days and realized that the milestone/percentage tracking thing is a bunch of bullshit. My kid is not a demographic. She’s an individual and she may be smaller or bigger at any given time depending on her activity level, growth spurts, sleep, eating schedule, and basic genetic makeup. I understand that tracking her growth over time can show trends and give us an idea if there are problems, but it seems just ludicrous how much attention is paid to this stuff in the first few months. Her doctor warned us that she had to stay in the same percentile (or go up) at her first appointment. What the hell? She’s going to be smaller sometimes and bigger sometimes. What about when she starts solids and her calorie intake drops for a while? What if her growth slows down for a little while? Should we really have to look at all this stuff with a magnifying glass before it can ever indicate anything? It turns out I know a lot of people whose kids were in low percentiles (myself included) and turned out just fine. And anyone who sees Lillian can tell she’s thriving, so the growth charts (and our pediatrician who I’m about to fire anyway – story coming soon) can just suck it.

I’m a make the plan, execute the plan kind of person. This has been a source of stress for me since I had a baby. I’m constantly faced with choices with unknown outcomes. Feed the baby or put her down for a nap? Swaddle her or don’t? Change the diaper now or later? Go to the grocery store or stay home? Either choice can end in screaming and tears (not all mine) and once I’ve chosen I can’t go back. At first, making the “wrong” choice (the one ending in tears) made me feel horribly inadequate. I couldn’t get past feeling like I’d failed and that I should have been able to make the correct choice. Eventually I’ve come to realize that there’s no right choice. Either can end badly or well, and I’m just doing the best I can with what I know now.

My friend Heather from yoga and play group wrote this hysterical account of an afternoon with her son Charley and she’s letting me share it with you. Enjoy!

Choose your own parenting adventure.

Your husband calls and asks you to see if he left his wallet at the house. He did and he has no money for lunch. Do you:
A: Tell him to go hungry and have a low-key day at home with the baby (skip to end)
B: Think it would be nice to have a nice lunch with your dear husband and meet him for lunch (continue on)

You start the 15 mile drive to his work in the rain. The baby is happy in the car until you get on Mopac and starts to scream bloody f’n murder. Do you:
A: Turn around and go home (skip to end)
B: Turn up the classical radio station hoping it will calm the baby (continue on)

The baby is still screaming, but you’ve gone to far on Mopac now, so you continue on, at this point the baby has been screaming for 25 minutes. You arrive at your dear husband’s work and nurse the babe in car. The baby is happy and husband meets you out front. Do you:
A: Tell husband that babe is fussy and head home (skip to end).
B: Think we made it this far, let’s do lunch! (continue)

Husband drives so you can sit in back with the smiley baby. You get a mile from work and the baby starts to scream all holy hell. You and husband decide to:
A: Turn around and go home (skip to end)
B: Continue to lunch

You eat lunch and the babe is super great at the restaurant. You drive husband back to work and the baby is screaming like he’s on fire. After husband heads into work you nurse him and change him in the parking lot. He falls asleep and you carefully set him in his car seat. Yay, sleeping baby! You head in the direction of home. You are about to pass the exit to your house Do you:
A: Head home (skip to end)
B: Decide to take the chance to drop off a couple items at a consignment sale about 5 miles south of your house.

About 2 miles from the sale, the baby starts crying like he’s laying on a bed of nails. Do you:
A: Head home (skip to end)
B: Figure you’re so close and crank up the classical music

The babe is freaking the F out and you miss the turn, you decide to pull over and nurse him. The baby is happy but you’re now past the deadline to drop stuff off. Do you:
A: Head home (skip to end)
B: Hope the folks will take pity on you and take your stuff after the deadline, you continue on to the consignment sale

You pull into the consignment sale as your child is screaming in the back seat. The folks do not take pity on you and your screaming baby and are surprised that there would be any problems to get there on time with a screaming baby.
A: You decide to head home
B: You want to punch the woman in the face, but restrain yourself and head home

The baby screams like he’s been abandoned in a crack house, as you pull into the driveway he stops crying and smiles.

You cuddle up with the baby and HGTV and spend the day snuggling with this cutie pie.

Guess what my adventure today was…

6/9 Playgroup at Heather's

Charley Chillin'

Things change so freaking quickly when you have a baby. The baby changes weekly or daily, and you have no time to look back and think about everything you’ve learned and adjusted to and integrated because you’re scrambling to figure out what the hell you’re doing with the baby you have today. The Lillian of this week has little in common with the Lillian of last week. What upsets her, how she sleeps, how much she eats, and a bunch of other stuff  changes all the time.

We had no idea we were doing with sleep when we got home from the hospital. I read a bunch of things (babycenter.com, books, the stupid pamphlet that came with our stupid baby care class) that said newborns naturally fall asleep for the night around 10 or 11pm. So I didn’t put her down for final sleep until then, at which point I was losing my mind, she was screaming her head off, and David would have to step in and rescue us. Sometimes that meant he was up all night with a screaming baby, while I felt like I was drowning in guilt and remorse for burdening him. This went on for about six weeks. It was not fun.

My friend Tiffany said in her blog (which is awesome, by the way) that the biggest piece of advice she would give pregnant women is burn all your baby books. And while we’ve gotten some good info from a few books, I agree with her. If I had paid closer attention to my own observations, I would have noticed that Lillian seemed a wee bit overstimulated if she was up past 9pm. Agitated, hiccuping, kind of crazed. We observed this, but we kept trying other things because those goddamned books and internet and whatever said that we shouldn’t put our kid down early. Even worse, some people, including the triage nurse at our pediatrician’s office said to keep the baby awake all day. (He also said to give her Pedialite before bed instead of nursing. WTF?!)

But David had read case studies in a book on sleep a friend got us and one couple had succeeded by putting their newborn down at 6pm. We tried it. It worked. It turns out the more sleep Lillian gets, the more she sleeps. This may not be true for all kids. Maybe a laid back baby needs a little more awake time during the day to sleep well at night, but I can tell you without reservation that my kid is not laid back. She is all up in everything and that means that after a while she gets frazzled and overstimulated and without our help she gets very, very unhappy.

So now we have a bedtime routine that starts around 7pm, and almost always ends with her happily asleep by 8 or 9. She sleeps a minimum of 5 hours, usually 6-8. This is because we stopped listening to other people and started listening to ourselves. Since we started our self-designed routine, we all get a reasonable amount of sleep most nights. Yay!

Of course we’re still struggling with all the directives from our pediatrician (who told us to stop swaddling her at 8 weeks – again WTF!), people who say use a pacifier, don’t use a pacifier, don’t nurse her to sleep, don’t rock her to sleep, let her cry it out, let her sleep in your bed, put her in her own room, AAAAAAGGGGHHH!

Basically, any time you screw with what’s working before it stops working, you’re asking for trouble. Sometimes my kid needs to nurse to go to sleep. Sometimes she doesn’t. Sometimes she needs the swaddle to calm down and sleep, sometimes she doesn’t. She likes sucking her thumb and hand, she doesn’t like the pacifier. Why on earth would I ignore all these things she’s communicated to me very clearly because someone who doesn’t spend 24 hours a day with her 7 days a week told me to?

Good. Freaking. Question.

Twelve weeks!

I'm going to miss the crazy hair when it calms down.

Lillian is twelve weeks old today! Can you believe it? Everything seems to be picking up speed. It now makes a little more sense when people say the first year flies by. We’re looking at some big changes, like getting her to sleep without the swaddle, starting to work on getting her in her own room and crib (she sleeps in a co-sleeper next to our bed right now) and teething. And in a couple months solid food! WTH!

Progress this week: soooo much talking! All sorts of funky sounds, coos, squeaks, raspberries, and squawking. She has whole conversations with herself and us. Toxic levels of cuteness. She’s also getting really strong in the upper body. Big mini-pushups and leg strength. She’s rolled over a couple times but hasn’t figured out it can be a mode of transportation. Please don’t tell her. She’s getting more eye hand coordination and much drooly fist and thumb sucking has commenced. She turns to look at the source of sounds and tracks objects with her eyes. All of this is very cool.

Twelve weeks!

She cracks herself up.

I don’t know if I’ve mentioned it but my whole theory of child care boils down to this: Babies are weird. They’re always changing for no discernible reason, and no way to communicate with you why. Last week Lillian started having meltdowns where she would get too pissed off to nurse. If you’ve ever nursed, this is your nightmare. 1) it can mean she’s sick (but she’s not) and 2) it’s your trump card. If Daddy is pulling his hair out and the kid is screaming her head off, just stick her on the boob and all is well. Except all of a sudden not.

The first time it happened we both panicked and tried to figure out what I’d eaten – assuming the milk tasted bad to her. Then we swaddled her and put her down, and wham! Out like a light, woke up six hours later and ate just fine. It started recurring more this week. I get neurotic about it because I’m afraid she hasn’t eaten enough. I usually nurse her after her bath and then we put her to bed. But stressing just makes it worse, and if we just put her down to sleep she usually conks out for 6-7 hours. But not having that automatic shutoff button for the tantrums just sucks. Except babies are weird, and she may change her mind about the whole thing tomorrow. Or not.

Twelve weeks!

Special thanks to my friends who have reached out with support since my last post. It means a lot. It’s really hard sometimes, but every day gets a little easier, and I get a little more flexible and better at dealing with things as they come. Still untold challenges lie ahead, and I gratefully accept and appreciate the support and empathy of people who care about me. Y’all rock!

I’ve been debating how frank I want to be on this blog about some of the crazy postpartum stuff I’ve been going through. I tend to keep my tone some kind of combination of chirpy and sardonic, and a lot of what I’ve been through over the past few months really doesn’t fit with that. Nor can I write about these experiences and make light of them with a clear conscience. This is some serious shit.

The postpartum period is no freaking joke. Sleep deprivation is used as torture by the military. All new parents are subject to it for weeks or possibly months, and everyone just laughs it off. Or they say asinine things to you like “Why don’t you sleep when the baby sleeps?”

Add on to that something nobody really talks about which is this crazy hormonal shift your body goes through for God knows how long. I still have night sweats and I’m almost three months out. For the first several weeks I broke out into a cold sweat, had heart palpitations, and generally felt wretched. The mood swings that come with them are epic.

Add in the reality that you’re now responsible for the survival of a helpless human being and you have no training and no experience. This is not a recipe for confidence. What you do have is a whole lot of dogmatic, vastly contradictory advice from friends, family, health practitioners, and the dreaded internet. It’s enough to make anyone, no matter how well adjusted, good and crazy. I’m a worrier and a rule-follower, so wading through all this crap while trying to figure out what makes the most sense for Lillian and us is wicked stressful.

Another problem is how the medical community and our society treats this period. Nobody wants to be stigmatized and diagnosed with Postpartum Depression. But in reality every new mom I know, myself included, manifest at least a few of the “symptoms” associated with it. But what if you don’t want to think of yourself that way, or you don’t want other people to think you’re sick? You hide how you’re feeling or repress it. This is obviously not good for your kid, and seriously not good for you.

I wrote about how I lost my shit during the first couple of weeks. I didn’t write about how much more I lost my shit after that, and how I still can’t hold my shit together for more than a day or two at a time. I have a lot of experience dealing with emotional turmoil. I’ve been treated for anxiety and panic attacks in the past, and I have a bunch of good, healthy coping mechanisms that keep me on the right track. But when I had the baby most of those things were derailed. Meditation is hard to come by when you’re caring for a newborn, as is exercise, sleep, good eating habits, and socializing. Medication is not my favorite way to cope, and it is no substitute for an emotionally and physically healthy lifestyle.

The hormonal stuff just sucks. It SUUUUUUCKS. Right at the point in my life when I need to be able to use all my wisdom, experience, and maturity I seem to have reverted to teenagerhood. Most of the time I’m rational and even tempered, but I unpredictably become enraged or despondent and I often don’t see it coming. Once it sets in I’m barely functional. My self-esteem takes a nose dive and I spend a lot of time crying and feeling helpless. The last time I remember feeling like this I WAS a teenager and one brief period in my life when I was on the pill. Yay hormones!

While it’s interesting that much of this emotional bedlam is probably hormonal in origin, it doesn’t help much with the “What the fuck do I do right now?” aspect. How do I build a whole new set of coping mechanisms while learning how to be a parent and under the 24 hour pressure and stress that it entails?

Do I take medication? Well, yeah. I went back on a low dose of Prozac. It’s enough to keep my anxiety from turning into panic, but not enough to stop the unfamilliar waves of depression. But I really don’t want to have to deal with weaning off a larger dose when the hormonal component of this shit is likely to pass in the next couple of months or so. I also have been taking Ambien to sleep, but I’m starting to wean off of it. I don’t sleep as deeply when I take it and I think it makes my insomnia worse when it wears off in the middle of the night. It was useful for a while but I’m kind of over it.

Do I exercise more? Yes, when I can. I’d love to do a yoga class every day but since I don’t have a live-in nanny that’s not on the menu. Postnatal yoga can be frustrating,  I’m lucky if I get half an hour of vinyasa in before Lillian needs changing or feeding or soothing. Not a lot of bang for the buck, though it is nice to socialize with other moms and babies. I’ve been taking walks while wearing Lillian in the Bjorn. For weight-bearing exercise it’s great, but it’s hell on my back and shoulders. She’ll eventually grow into the Ergo and that will be an improvement. We’re also getting a fancy stroller that I may eventually jog with, so we’ll see how that goes. Luckily exercise is something that helps with anxiety AND depression so the more I get, the better. It’s just that any activity is now about four times more complicated than it was before. Many activities are just plain impossible.

Do I reach out for support? As much as I can. I see my therapist and go to group therapy, both of which have been invaluable. But it’s not enough. I don’t have time to call or see my friends like I used to, and many of them don’t have time for me. I also can’t meet people out for lunch right now because anything I don’t cook myself may make my kid have bloody diapers and let me tell you, that is not a good thing when I’m struggling with anxiety and depression.

To add to the fun my therapist is moving away at the end of July. This totally sucks, and I’m experiencing a lot of dread over it. She’s been especially helpful during this period when I need support – not advice, judgment, or obligation. I’ve always had a hard time accepting support, and she’s really helped me so her leaving is not a fun thing.

I have a group of new mamas I meet with and chat with over email. They’ve all been great, and we’ve really helped each other out a lot, I think. Our play dates are a bright spot in my week.

My husband has been amazing. He’s been present, supportive, and incredibly loving. He’s an amazing dad, and we learn from each other all the time. I am so incredibly grateful that in our relationship we choose to see our differences in temperament and perspective as an opportunity to learn rather than as a threat. Every day one of us learns something new about the baby and teaches the other one, and we get collectively smarter. This is awesome.

While the last few months have been probably the hardest in our marriage, in some ways they have also been the best. I trust him more now than I ever did before, he’s stuck by me no matter how unhinged or miserable I’ve become.  The hardest part has been letting him take care of me, letting him bear some of the burden without drowning in guilt and remorse. When I get depressed I feel like I can never do enough for Lillian and for him and that all my efforts come up short (this is a habitual thought pattern I’ve had for much of my life). Allowing him to take care of me when I feel this way is a struggle, but it’s been an amazing lesson, too. I think I’m beginning to realize for the first time in my life that I’m worth taking care of, and that I deserve help when I need it, and that it’s okay to ask for and receive it.

My inlaws have been incredibly helpful, especially during the first few weeks when I just couldn’t get my shit together. They still will babysit at the drop of a hat and love spending time with the baby. I also just interviewed a doula/nanny who will be helping me out on an as-needed basis. I’m really looking forward to having a little free time to do stupid shit that has no other object than making me feel good for a little while. I’ve been struggling with guilt over not spending every moment as productively as possible. Things get pretty chaotic when there’s a new human being in the house who can’t talk or walk and stuff like dishes and laundry and grocery shopping get a wee bit backed up. So the idea of getting a massage or going to yoga by myself seems alarmingly decadent and unwarranted. Except that I desperately need some me time to recharge my depleted batteries.

On the flip side, I’ve also come to realize that people really aren’t offering help unless they genuinely care about what I need and want. Sometimes I’m offered things that I don’t need or want, and then made to feel like I’m unreasonable or ungrateful if I don’t accept them entirely on the other person’s terms. For example, one person I know loves to offer advice that isn’t useful or interesting to me, and then argues compulsively when I respectfully decline to take it. I seriously don’t have the energy for this shit right now.

Drawing healthy boundaries is never easy, and is more stressful and draining when my energy and self-esteem are on the low side. Sacrificing my peace of mind in order to take care of the feelings of someone else is something I do reflexively, but it’s just not possible right now.

To sum up, postpartum depression or anxiety or whatever you want to call it is some serious crap that I’m going to bet most new moms experience far more than anyone wants to admit. The cocktail of massive life change, horrible sleep deprivation, and huge hormonal shifts constitutes a shitstorm no one can imagine before it happens, and no one has the innate capacity to deal with when it does. Our society sucks at this stuff and either stigmatizes or minimizes what most new moms are going through every day. I’m still struggling to find the right balance and the right kind of support to just get by. I love my kid like crazy, but I haven’t grown all the mental muscles I need yet to deal with the new responsibility and pressure. I know I’m a strong, resilient, healthy person, but this has tested me in ways I never imagined.

If you or someone you know is struggling after having a baby please encourage them to ask for whatever help they need without shame. The expectations we have of ourselves when we enter into parenthood are often unattainable and unreasonable, and we need all the considerate, meaningful help we can get.

Sometime in the last several days I think I swallowed a bowling ball. Suddenly, dragging my sad carcass around is getting really difficult and increasingly painful (again). I can only hope that I get some kind of third trimester second wind before it gets really bad. My yoga teacher said I may be experiencing a lot of pain because I was already very flexible before all the relaxin hit my body. If this is true, then amping my my walks may help some.

I wish I could say I was sitting around eating truffles and relaxing, but I don’t have a lot of room in the belly for food and while I do spend a lot of time sitting, it gets uncomfortable too. Sleep is getting more elusive because of the pain and stiffness. What I wouldn’t give for a handful of Advil right now. I’m still going to yoga as much as possible, my body doesn’t seem to disagree with that too much.

Mostly it’s terribly scary to realize that the baby is going to double in size over the next few weeks and I already feel like a beach ball filled with lead. I guess my body will deal, somehow.

We had a nice, low-key holiday with minimal activity. I cooked a few things, but mostly just relaxed with David. We got ourselves a Kindle with a nice gift card from my parents. Guess what? You can read with it one handed! This bodes well for feeding and reading at the same time. I guess I should work on my one handed typing as well. We also got a nice blanket and cute outfit for the baby (she’s not even out yet and she’s getting Christmas presents) and best of all, David and his dad finished work on the nursery! Now it’s up to me to put things away and get on the decorating. It looks really nice. I hope the glider gets here soon, because it’s a neat room to hang out in. Pictures when it’s cleaned up a bit, right now it’s covered in baby clothes and power tools.

One thing I am not short on is clothes. Two big batches of hand me downs from two generous ladies makes for a well-dressed kid. Right now I’m just trying to figure out how to best organize everything so it’s ready when she gets home. I’ve also already got some great blankets, socks, shoes, hats, and various other things. This child will not be lacking in the fashion department. And in spite of my physical complaints, I’ve gotten a good start on organizing and storing them all. So glad we re-purposed grown up furniture that has room!

Time to stagger  back into the living room and socialize with my husband.

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